When the 2020 Golden Globe nominations were announced in December, all the talk was about how streaming services dominated traditional Hollywood: Netflix got 34 nominations, more than any other studio or network (including 17 film nominations, more than doubling second-place Sony’s eight); Amazon Prime got eight; Hulu got five; and Apple TV+ got three. ABC, NBC, and CBS got zero.
But make no mistake: Hollywood has firmly entered an era in which streaming companies will define prestige content and awards seasons. Netflix isn’t going anywhere, and its spending plans ensure that. Netflix spent $15 billion on original content in 2019, and raised more than $4 billion in debt to fund more original content in 2020. It isn’t clear exactly how much Netflix will spend on original content in 2020 – CEO Reed Hastings said earlier this year, “We plan on taking spend up quite a bit.” But with Disney+ gaining steam, WarnerMedia launching HBO Max, and NBC launching Peacock, you can bet it will be more than the 2019 spend.
Netflix’s spending concerns some shareholders, but Bank of America analyst Nat Schindler says there’s no reason for alarm: “Their operating margins are going through the roof very quickly, so they can spend off their real earnings.” Netflix stock rose about 4,000% from 2010 through the end of 2019, though it only rose 25% in 2019; it now has 158 million global subscribers.
Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais joked early in his monologue, “This show should just be me going, ‘Well done, Netflix, you win everything, goodnight.’” The joke was very telling. Hollywood now sees Netflix as the Goliath of awards season.
Hollywood types this year were either impressed enough by Netflix to make such jokes, or threatened enough to be bothered by such jokes. When “1917” won Best Motion Picture Drama, director Sam Mendes said in his speech, “I hope this means that people will turn up and see this on the big screen, the way it was intended,” a clear jab at Netflix and “The Irishman.” When HBO’s “Chernobyl” won Best Limited Series or Motion Picture, the show’s star Jared Harris said in his speech, “It’s not all about Netflix. Sorry, Netflix.”
Sure, it’s not all about Netflix, but it is certainly all about streaming. Netflix won two statues, both for acting (Laura Dern for the original film “Marriage Story” and Olivia Colman for the original series “The Crown”); Amazon won two, both for “Fleabag” (Best TV Series, Musical or Comedy and Best Actress); and Disney-owned Hulu won two for acting (Patricia Arquette in “The Act” and Ramy Youseff in “Ramy”). That’s six total wins for streaming services, tying last year, when Netflix won five and Amazon (AMZN) won one.
If Netflix is to be painted as a big loser of the night, then Apple (AAPL) was the biggest loser, with zero wins. Apple CEO Tim Cook also had to sit through a damaging joke from host Ricky Gervais, who said Apple uses “sweatshops in China.”
HBO won four statues this year (two for “Chernobyl” and two for “Succession”), and in a sense lies somewhere between the pure-play streaming names and the traditional Hollywood studios, since so much viewing of HBO’s shows now happens via streaming, and since HBO’s biggest test of 2020 will be the launch of its new HBO Max service.
Netflix last week tweeted out a thread of all 29 original films coming to the service in 2020, a dizzying list. In 2019, it put out 371 new original shows, and averaged one new show or movie released per day. In 2020, the streaming wars will continue, with Netflix, Disney, Apple, NBC, and AT&T spending billions on original content—prestige shows and movies that will show up again in the next awards season.
Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and closely covers Netflix, Disney, and the streaming wars. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.